Today in the Mission Yearbook

The PC(USA)’s advocacy director: ‘We have had church tonight!’


The Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett’s inspiring sermon and a rendition of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ highlight day one of the Young Adult Advocacy Conference

December 20, 2023

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett preaches during the Young Adult Advocacy Conference. (Photo by Jimmie Hawkins)

“Jesus and Justice,” the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s first-ever Young Adult Advocacy Conference, got underway on an October Friday at the Presbyterian Center and online. Eighty young people registered for the free three-day conference, including an online cadre of about 30 young adults.

“I’m so inspired for your witness,” the Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, told both those online and the group gathered in the Chapel at the Presbyterian Center. Moffett put in a plug for young adults — those who are college-age or seminarians — to also consider attending the Matthew 25 Summit, set for Jan. 16-18, 2024. New Life Presbyterian Church in College Park, Georgia, about 10 miles south of Atlanta, is hosting that much-anticipated event. “I hope there will be some young people at the summit,” Moffett said. “It’s open to [Matthew 25] inquirers and those who are seasoned.”

“We are excited to do this work, focusing on advocacy and social justice and what that looks like for young adults,” said Ivy Lopedito, one of the conference organizers and a mission specialist at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, which alongside the Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., does advocacy work on behalf of the nation’s 1.1 million Presbyterians. “We [young adults] are passionate about this work, and the church sees that. Sometimes we just don’t know the church is doing this work, too, and we’re doing the work together.”

Listening, learning and doing were the themes for each respective day of the conference, said the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, advocacy director for the PC(USA). “We want to listen to what God’s spirit is saying to you tonight,” he said.

Hawkins defined advocacy as both “a call to change and a call for justice.”

“Something is out of whack. We are the richest country in the world. People are living on the streets, and we are numb to it. We walk right by them, but God is waking us up. Advocacy is speaking up and standing with others,” Hawkins said.

Because advocacy is also a spiritual discipline, “there is no disparity between advocacy and evangelism,” the longtime pastor said. “Jesus was a preacher, teacher and healer.”

Lawrence Robertson Jr. delivers an a cappella version of Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come.” (Photo by Mike Ferguson)

“The church does advocacy. Young adults do advocacy — just not together,” Hawkins said. “The tragedy for the church is that when young adults plan advocacy events, they don’t even think of the church as an ally. We have to do a much better job of investing in the lives of young people. We want to join what you are engaged in.”

Many churches proclaim two messages that are in conflict, according to Hawkins: We want more young people, and we find topics around social justice to be among our most controversial. “The thing we are most afraid of,” he said, “is the one thing that will attract young people to our churches.”

Why hold an advocacy conference for young adults? “Because justice matters,” Hawkins said. “In the Reformed tradition, we know two things about God: God is a god of love, and God is a god of justice. God has called us to make a difference in this world.”

“This country can do better. Justice matters,” Hawkins said. “That’s why we’re having this conference.”

“God is doing a new thing, and we need to celebrate that new thing,” said Moffett, herself a pastor of 33 years before being approved as the PMA’s leader by the 223rd General Assembly in 2018 and then again by the 225th General Assembly in 2022. “We don’t do this work alone. We are the church together.

“‘When did we see you, Lord?’ ‘When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me,’” Moffett said.

Before helping to preside at the communion table, Hawkins paused to offer a word of appreciation for the sermon he’d just witnessed.

“We have had church tonight!” he said.

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett’s preaches at the Young Adult Advocacy Conference

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Ralph Su, Associate, Asian Intercultural Congregational Support, Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Carla Sutton, Operations Admin, Presbyterian Foundation

Let us pray

God, in your mercy, give us eyes to see beyond the smiles of those who serve us. Open our hearts to love those so easy to treat simply as tools, for you said that whenever we care for the least, we serve you Amen.